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Our History - A Dragon's Tale


At the heart of our School’s history are the people… From the pioneering first years to becoming an award winning leader in Asia Pacific, UNIS Hanoi honours stories from alumni students, faculty and staff. Enjoy hearing from the voices of the era!


Scroll through the overview of the remarkable milestones in UNIS Hanoi’s 35-year journey.

June 1988

The Ministry of Education of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam issues the formal decree establishing an International School in Hanoi for expatriate children of the Diplomatic Corps.

A Memorandum of Understanding is signed between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Education. The Memorandum includes operating guidelines for the school as a cultural and non-profit institution of the international community in Vietnam.

September 1988

The United Nations International School of Hanoi (UNIS Hanoi) opens at the Hanoi-Amsterdam Campus with an enrolment of 4 students and with Dr Alice Ann Winner as its first Head of School.


Head of School, Mr Graham Cherry starts his leadership.


The Swedish School merges with UNIS Hanoi at the Hanoi-Amsterdam Campus. Grades extend from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8.


Head of School, Mr Jim Ambrose starts his leadership.


Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 2 moves to converted classrooms in the Van Phuc Diplomatic Compound. Grades extend to Grade 9 at Hanoi-Amsterdam Campus. Three satellite classrooms are constructed at Hanoi-Amsterdam Campus. Enrollment is over 310.


Grades 3 to 5 move from Hanoi-Amsterdam to Van Phuc Campus. Grades extend to Grade 10 at Hanoi-Amsterdam Campus.  UNIS Hanoi is authorised to implement the Middle Years International Baccalaureate Programme (Grades 6-10). Head of School Dr Frances Rhodes starts her leadership. 


Middle School is established to include Grades 6 to 8, making UNIS Hanoi a three-division school - Lower, Middle, and Upper with a total enrollment of nearly 400.

UNIS Hanoi is authorised for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

Three additional satellite classrooms are constructed at Hanoi-Amsterdam, bringing the total number of satellite classrooms to six. The construction of the Early Childhood Centre adjacent to the Van Phuc Campus creates a new division. 


UNIS Hanoi celebrates its 10th birthday with 350 students and its first graduating class - Class of 1999. 

International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme is authorised, making UNIS Hanoi the first three-programme IB school in Asia.

Self-Study for Accreditation is initiated according to guidelines established by the European Council of International Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

All grades are finally united on the Van Phuc Campus and UNIS Hanoi starts its Community Programmes offering classes and activities to the Hanoi community.

January 2000

UNIS Hanoi is granted a 9.2 hectare site in the Ciputra compound by the Prime Minister for the purpose of constructing the new UNIS Hanoi Campus.

UNIS Hanoi partners with the Ministry of Education and Training in what will become a two decade commitment to professional development for kindergarten teachers in Hanoi.


New campus ground-breaking ceremony is held and UNIS Hanoi receives its Land Use Rights (Red Book). 

Mr John Osbo is Head of School for one year.


Head of School, Mr Alun Cooper starts his leadership.


UNIS Hanoi moves to its current campus  - the largest school campus in Vietnam. Ten modern buildings surrounded by playgrounds and playing fields provide the setting for teaching and learning for 637 students in Grades Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12.


Heated swimming pools and a Physical Education building come into operation further enhancing facilities for the UNIS Hanoi community and more broadly through its Community Programmes.


Head of School Dr Charles Barder starts his leadership (Back row left. Pictured with the Board of Directors).


Further campus enhancements with tennis courts and a dedicated Science and Technology Building confirms UNIS Hanoi’s commitment to outstanding education. The Peter Goverde Memorial Youth Tennis Tournament celebrates the opening of the courts in honour of a PE faculty member.


UNIS Hanoi becomes a member of the Asia Pacific Activities Conference (APAC) providing international sports and arts tournaments and festivals for High School students.

October 2010

United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits UNIS Hanoi. 

“I am here to make this world more peaceful, more developed, happier and more prosperous for you because I believe that you are the leaders of tomorrow. While I am working as a leader of today, soon it will be your world; soon you will be the leaders of the world.”


UNIS Hanoi is proud to open two major new facilities as school enrolment increases to 1000+.

The Sports Centre provides air conditioned court space, a running track, dance studio, fitness centre and Health Classrooms. 

The Centre for Arts boasts a 400-seat professional theatre, exhibition space and combines visual and performing arts in one creative space. UNIS Music Academy launches in partnership with musicians from Vietnam National Academy of Music. 


UNIS Hanoi celebrates 25 Years of Learning to Inspire with an all-school photo taken on UN Day, the launch of its Scholarship Programme for talented, local high school students from disadvantaged families, and the Birthday Gift Fund to support the School’s Service Learning programme and honouring the School's commitment to our host nation.


UNIS Hanoi expands its Scholarship Programme, welcoming two new scholars thanks to the community’s support for its first Annual Community Campaign and through the creation of the Bitexco Founders Scholarship.


Campus construction starts for the School’s new dining area and learning centre, a new wing for the Elementary School (including maker space, creativity space, and 4 classrooms), an artificial turf soccer pitch, a new eco-friendly central air conditioning system and the refurbishment of the covered courts.


It's UNIS Hanoi’s 30th Birthday! Our all-school photo starts a year of celebrations in which we successfully complete our first Scholarship Fund campaign early and celebrate the service of UNIS Hanoi’s longest serving Head of School, Dr Charles Barder as he heads for retirement.


UNIS Hanoi starts the new year with new facilities (Canteen and Ly Thai To Learning Centre, a new wing to the Elementary School, an extended and fully renovated covered court area, and an artificial turf soccer pitch for all-year use) and a new Head of School, as Ms Jane McGee starts her leadership.


The Covid Pandemic disrupts its first year at UNIS Hanoi with cancelled IB Diploma exams for the Class of 2020 worldwide and the start of distance learning after Tet.


UNIS Hanoi enjoys almost a full year of face to face school as Vietnam closes its borders to manage the global pandemic. Students return to distance learning at the end of the year and the Class of 2021 graduate online.


School opens online and distance learning dominates the year until a return to face to face classes for all after Spring Break. During the summer, the roofs of the Sports Centre and operations buildings are covered with 921 solar panels in a joint project initiated by the UNIS Impact Fund and partnered with School funds. On a sunny day, the Sports Centre is powered with 80% clean, solar energy.


UNIS Hanoi celebrates 35 Years of Learning for Impact and revels in a post-pandemic renaissance with its theme of #openingdoors. 

The symbol of Hanoi is chosen for the all-school birthday photo, underlining our community partnerships, and it's a return to full programming for our students including trip weeks, international travel, and community events such as UN Day, Spring Fair and the Learning Together professional development conference. 

The Garden of Philanthropy is formally opened as part of the School’s UN Day celebrations and the UNIS Cultural Collection wins international recognition.


UNIS Hanoi has benefitted from the wisdom, experience and determined talents of eight remarkable men and women. We thank them for their service, leadership and vision.
Ms Jane McGee
Head of School 2018-Now
"The individuals who have been members of our community for the past 35 years have laid the foundation for who we are today, our campus, our programme and our strong sense of community. They have supported more than 20,000 students. And we, as a community, know that we are laying the foundations for the next 35 years of learning."
Dr Charles Barder
Head of School 2008-2018
"I will miss the regular contact with students, faculty, parents and staff. Ms Canada and I love being part of such a vibrant community, and it will be hard to leave UNIS and Hanoi."
Mr Alun Cooper
Head of School 2003-2008 
"UNIS Hanoi was a wonderful time in my professional career and I still have the most incredible feeling about this amazing school.
I wish you all a most exciting and meaningful future."
Mr John D. Osbo
Head of School 2002-2003
"Warm regards to everyone and my best wishes for UNIS’ continued success." 
Dr Frances Rhodes
Head of School 1997-2002
"UNIS itself is taking a very important step at this time with the construction of a new and greatly expanded international campus. UNIS staff and students will move to the new site in Spring 2004 thus taking a major step forward in the history of the school."
Mr Jim Ambrose
Head of School 1994-1997
"The ultimate solution was for UNIS to obtain land on which to build its own campus and that became our strategic goal."
Mr Graham Cherry
Head of School 1990-1994
"The School had a real family feel to it, and served as a kind of focal point for the lives of many families."
Dr Alice-Ann Winner
Head of School 1988-1990
"We had four rooms in a recently built Vietnamese high school where we had to completely renovate the bathrooms. We had a generator, which I had to learn how to use."